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Environmental Impacts and Recovery After the Hebei Spirit Oil Spill in Korea

Yim, U. H., Khim, J. S., Kim, M., Jung, J.-H., Shim, W. J.
Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology 2017 v.73 no.1 pp. 47-54
Bivalvia, coasts, ecosystems, ecotoxicology, environmental assessment, environmental impact, hydrocarbons, monitoring, oil spills, oils, petroleum, pollution, seawater, sediments, toxicity, China, Korean Peninsula
The Hebei Spirit oil spill (HSOS) on December 7, 2007 was the worst oil spill recorded in Korea, with the release of approximately 10,900 tons of crude oil and 375 km of coastline polluted along the west coast of Korea. Cleanup operation was conducted by official and contract responders as well as volunteers for massive oil containment and removal of heavy accumulations of stranded oil. Together with the oil cleanup, a long-term environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the HSOS was initiated based on the Marine Environmental Management Act, which covers oil contamination in a multimedia environment, toxic effects on organisms, and ecosystem injury. This review summarizes the long-term monitoring results of HSOS EIA focused on (1) pollution status of seawater, sediment, and bivalves, (2) ecotoxicological effects, and (3) ecosystem recovery. Overall, concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons in the environment indicated that their concentrations were well down to at or near background or pre-spill contamination levels at most sites after 1 year. The potential toxic effects of residual oils in sediments have decreased to background levels in most coastal areas of Taean. The entire ecosystem in the most affected area of the Taean coasts appear to be considerably, but not fully, recovered at present, namely after 8 years of the HSOS. The presence of lingering oil and elevated contamination levels at several sites still require continuous long-term monitoring.